Bruins, Trojans: A New View
Funny how quickly things can change in college football, huh?
A week ago, USC was 3-0 and, if not exactly building momentum, at least winning games it was supposed to win. And UCLA was 1-2 and, according to most people, headed to Texas to be barbecued by the highly-ranked Longhorns.
Well, here we are, a week later, with USC 4-0, coming off a 50-13 victory against the Washington State JVs, while Rick Neuheisel’s Bruins are now a rising 2-2 and still basking in the spotlight of the biggest upset of the season so far, a 34-12 stunner.
So what does it all exactly mean? Here are a few quick views:
1. Was I the only writer in town not completely shocked by UCLA? If you read this blog on Thursday, I wrote that the Bruins were catching a vulnerable Texas team that was not only looking ahead to Oklahoma but in the midst of a huge offensive transition and not handling it very well. I mentioned that if Neuheisel’s kids could come in with the same Texas-size chip on their shoulders that they had against Houston and avoid turnovers, the game in Austin could be very competitive. Well, I was wrong. It wasn’t competitive. The Bruins blew them out.
2. Give Neuheisel some credit. Down 0-2 after a 35-0 drubbing by Stanford, he somehow got his players to believe in themselves and turned around not only the season but maybe the entire program. This is a good young team with some terrific athletes. The only thing it is missing at the moment is a consistent passing game. If it ever finds that, look out.
3. USC fans are all excited again, and that’s nice. But what about the first half in Pullman that had the Trojans down 7-0 and then ahead only 21-13 with two minutes to play before halftime? If you’re a good football team, you obliterate the poor, outmanned Cougars from the start. Fifty points? Come on, Oregon might have that many after two quarters against WSU.
4. Not that Lane Kiffin’s team didn’t do some good things in the Palouse. It spread the ball around enough to confirm that this team has so many weapons, it doesn’t know what to do first. Stanley Havili’s coming out party came a week early. I was sure Kiffin was saving him for Washington, or maybe Stanford. This kid might be the best football player on the team. But he’s just the start. When you include Ronald Johnson and Allen Bradford and Robert Woods and Marc Tyler and Dillon Baxter, along with any number of other gifted young wideouts, you get the idea. The Trojans have a lot of potential on offense.
5. Then there is Matt Barkley. He threw for three touchdowns overall and comported himself beautifully in the third quarter. But in the first two quarters, he was intercepted twice and should have suffered a third. Just when it seemed he had matured into a different quarterback, he has reverted to throwing into crowds and his lack of accuracy remains a serious question. Barkley can get by with those kind of performances against Washington State and Minnesota. But not against Oregon and Stanford, among others.
6. This week, UCLA gets a bye of sorts, playing the same undersized Cougars from Washington State, while USC comes home, finally, to face the Washington team that shocked it a year ago in Seattle. Jake Locker already has played a couple of big games against the Trojans, and judging by the way Monte Kiffin’s soft cover two defense performed on Saturday, the Huskies’ quarterback could do well again at the Coliseum. But the Trojans should have too many athletes for Steve Sarkisian and Co., especially at home. Ah, but the following week . . .that’s when we really find out about USC. That’s when the Trojans travel to Palo Alto to play Stanford.
A few quick hits from another busy football weekend:
Oregon looked good again, but not entirely unbeatable, in disposing of Arizona State Saturday night . . .
Little Nickell Robey looks too small to start at cornerback for USC, until it’s time to make plays. Then he makes plenty . . .
Stanford didn’t just beat Notre Dame, it completely bullied the Irish, pushing them all over the field physically . . .
Stanford at Oregon on Saturday. Easily the Pac-10 Game of the Year so far . . .
Earl Thomas, the Texas safety Pete Carroll drafted ahead of ex-Trojan Taylor Mays, had two picks, including the game-clincher with seconds remaining in the Seahawks’ upset of the Chargers on Sunday. . .
Don’t get too excited about Seattle, though. Carroll’s offense stinks. Take away those two long kickoff return TDs by Leon Washington, and San Diego wins that game easily . . .
Oh, by the way, Pete: How’s Mark Sanchez been doing lately? . . .
— STEVE BISHEFF